After a number of years being single after a bad breakup, you can be forgiven for being fearful of dating again. The way people meet, and their expectations of that first date, has changed. There is a lot more pressure to 'click' at the first meeting. If this doesn’t happen, then people simply go back on social media and arrange to meet someone else.
Sounds great at first, as this doesn’t waste any time, however when you are looking for a long term partner, clicking may not be the best thing for you. This is even truer if you are used to unhealthy relationships, as what’s familiar could often be disguised as 'clicking'. The problem with what’s familiar is that if it never worked before, then there’s a good chance it won’t work now!
If you’ve been on your own for some time, it can be easy to either romanticise relationships or be very cynical about them. What I mean by romanticising is that expectation that your partner will;
- be your best friend
- be a great lover
- have the same political views as you
- be a provider
- be confident
- be funny
- have a washboard stomach
- be the person to go to all the events you would like to go to
- spend lots of time together with you
- be romantic
The list goes on. It’s a lot of pressure, and it's difficult to be all things to one person. Some of your needs might need to be met by friends or family, and accepting the person you are with as imperfectly perfect like yourself!
Does this mean settling?
No, I don’t believe it does. What is often lacking in the age of instant gratification in relationships is acceptance. To be accepted by another with your imperfections is the most honest, real, and intimate you can be. It’s what makes for long-lasting relationships. Not whether the person has great feet, likes all the same music or events as you, or tells the best jokes. They are nice, but are they essential? What’s going to matter when you are in your 70s? Whether you have lots of the same friends? Whether you still fancy their feet? Or whether you were able to work at making your relationship evolve in a way that benefits you both?
And relationships are work! You may have the most beautiful, handsome partner, but after 20 years you will still be attracted to them, just not in the same way. What else is going to hold you together? Your bodies will change even if you’re in the gym every day. Your finances will change and your aspirations will definitely alter.
But before you get to that, there is, of course, the first date!
Be honest, on a dating profile, everyone puts;
- has a good sense of humour
- hard-working (they aren’t going to put that they are lazy, are they!)
Be yourself, prepare to be uncomfortable as you will be going outside of your comfort zone, and, most importantly, have fun! Go on dates to places that you really want to go to - why not! If you’ve always wanted to try a particular restaurant then suggest it; if you’ve wanted to do a cake decorating class, then why not ask. Take the pressure off of yourself by arranging to have a good time, no matter whether the other person and you get on!
Look at old behaviours you’ve had in the past when dating, and ask yourself whether these strategies serve their purpose now? Are they genuinely a part of your personality, or are they ways in which you would like to present yourself that isn’t even really you!
If the date goes extremely badly then, of course, there’s no need to repeat the exercise. Be safe at all times and to an extent trust your instincts, but also question whether your 'instincts' are trying to push you back into the familiar.
It’s unlikely that someone will ever like all of you, but that’s not what you’re asking for. What you’re aiming for is someone to accept you, like some parts, love other parts, challenge some too, but to accept that this is who you are. Loving all of you is your job to work towards, nobody else’s. That may sound harsh, but the days of mills and boon are not only over, they never really existed!
Nobody is perfect, not you nor I, or your potential partners, and that’s ok. You are looking for someone who compliments you, and you, them. Leave the romance novels at the door and go for something more real!
Also, it is important to question some of the behaviours you have put up with in the past. There is no reason for someone to ghost you. It takes 30 seconds to say "I’m busy, can I call you later?", and nobody is that busy they can’t do that! If you have time to go to the loo, then you have time to send a message!
Being inconsistent is another thing that people sometimes let slide. Actions are hard to lie about. This person is giving you insight into what they are like through their actions. They too could be projecting a version of themselves that isn’t real, so be brave and ask them "why do you do that?". Make it known that you’ve noticed this trait and that you’re uncomfortable with it. If it continues and you’re not happy to accept it, then don’t continue the relationship.
Be honest with yourself and admit the things you do that allow people to think that you’re OK with bad behaviour and challenge that.
Finally, ask people what they want from dating. So many people struggle with this. Most of the time it even says what you’re seeking on your internet profile, but people have difficulty saying this in person. If someone reacts badly to you asking what their aims are from getting to know you, then is this worth it? You can be enjoying yourself and see how things go with a view to having something serious, and there’s no harm in saying this!
If you are struggling with this, then seek support from a therapist who specialises in relationships. Being on dates that go nowhere can be soul-destroying, so having someone else there can help you maintain your self-esteem. Best of luck.